Tag Archives: sports

Recommended Reading for 24 December, 2010

Gentle reader, be cautioned: comments sections on mainstream media sites tend to not be safe and we here at FWD/Forward don’t necessarily endorse all the opinions in these pieces. Let’s jump right in, shall we?

The Broken of Britain: The GP’s Story by Dr Jest

So there you have it. Neither Pete nor Dud would have chosen to be where they are now, and neither has asked not to work when they were capable. Indeed both have rather struggled on when reason would have suggested they ought not. And I could name you a dozen others in a similar position. All present talk of making it more profitable to work than rely on benefit may sound very noble and high minded in the marbled halls of power, where hard graft means having a lot to read and a few late meetings to go to. It completely misses the enormous efforts made by the likes of Pete and Dud to keep going against the odds, and any move to impoverish them is little short of scandalous and should be relentlessly pointed out for the evil narrow minded bigotry it is.

Sarah at Cat in a Dog’s World: PWD and TSA

From information I’d heard from TSA administrators, I thought that the body scanners would reducethe need for physical pat-downs. Little did I know that TSA would use the new technology as an excuse to conduct more invasive pat-downs! It is obscene, especially when one considers that many people with disabilities don’t have any “choice” at all. If someone is unable to stand independently for ten seconds with their arms up, or if one wears any number of medical devices or prostheses…there is no “choice.” (And no, for many people, “don’t fly” is not a realistic choice.) There is, additionally, reason for concern about the radiation from the body scanners, particularly for cancer survivors and people who have a genetic predisposition to cancer. It is now pretty clear that body scanners, far from being a panacea, are making things worse. And people with disabilities are being affected disproportionately.

At Spilt Milk: Thanks for your help, doctor.

Make no mistake: I know that this only happened to me because I am fat. If I were a thin person and I walked through his door with the symptoms I described, he would have been forced to dig deeper. To ask me more questions, to hopefully come up with a wider range of options. Maybe run more tests.

United States: Megan Cottrell at ChicagoNow: Got a disability? You’ll see the difference in your paycheck

A lot of people might assume that if you have a disability, you might not make as much money as someone without a disability. But how much less? How hard is it for people with disabilities in Illinois to get by compared to their neighbors?

India: An unnamed special correspondent at The Hindu: Social barriers keep the disabled away from workforce:

Persons with disabilities are the last identity group to enter the workforce, not because their disability comes in the way of their functioning, but because of social and practical barriers that prevent them from joining work, a study on the ‘Employment Rights of Disabled Women in India’ carried out by the Society for Disability and Rehabilitation of the National Commission for Women (NCW) has said.

Guillermo Contreras at Chron.com: State sued over care for disabled Texans

The federal lawsuit, filed Monday in San Antonio, alleges the state isn’t providing some mentally and physically disabled Texans the opportunity to move into community-based settings, which advocates say are less restrictive and more rehabilitative than nursing homes.

Lastly, here’s a transcript of a story on Australia’s 7.30 Report program called Setting Sail:

Known as the ‘Everest of sailing’ the Sydney to Hobart race challenges the most seasoned of yachtsmen on what can be a treacherous ocean voyage.

Most of the focus is on the big maxi-yachts competing for line honours. But a unique crew of blind and deaf sailors is also commanding attention.

The charity organisation, Sailors With Disabilities, has been gifted a half-million dollar fast yacht, making them eligible for the first time in the prestigious Rolex Cup.

Send your links to recreading[@]disabledfeminists[.]com. Let us know if/how you want to be credited. And have yourself a fabulous weekend.

Disabled? Don’t Plan On Driving to the 2012 London Olympics

This post has been edited with updated information.

Here’s a completely bizarre policy move for you: Planners of the 2012 London Olympics announced today that a request to allow disabled ticket holders to use the games lanes set aside for athletes and dignitaries will be turned down. 100 miles (161 kilometers, if you must) of roads are being set up with a prioritised scheme to move official Olympics traffic along1, and disabled drivers don’t get to use any of those, although they might have benefited from the accommodation, avoiding the stress of traffic or inaccessible public transit.

The reason?

…it would not be possible to distinguish between bona fide ticket holders and disabled drivers using the lanes illegally.

That’s right. Because there’s a possibility that a person with a blue badge might use one of the games lanes without necessarily holding a ticket to the games, the organisers have decided to just go ahead and bar all blue badge holders from the lanes. This reminds me of a lot of the ‘fraud prevention’ policies when it comes to disability benefits; everyone’s got a passel of stories about ‘benefits cheats’ or people who use placards without ‘really’ being disabled, and thinks governments ought to move the earth to prevent even one person from falsely claiming benefits, even if the expenses of programmes aimed at addressing fraud far outweigh the payouts in terms of catching people.

We talk about placard panic here a lot, and there’s a reason for it. The media likes to devote utterly absurd amounts of attention to the idea that there are scores of people out there using disabled placards to get away with sneaky sneaky things, like parking closer to the grocery store. There seems to be a very common assumption that a car with placards should be viewed with suspicion because the driver is faking or someone is using placards for a family member of any number of other things, and the level of parking and driving policing that goes on in the media while ignoring other stories of far more importance and relevance is pretty breathtaking. This, of course, reinforces social attitudes and encourages media consumers to also get involved with placard policing.

It’s things like that that lead to decisions like this, where out of fear that a handful of people might abuse their disabled placards to take advantage of the dedicated lanes, people decide to just bar all disabled drivers from those lines after a reasonable request for accommodation. Including, I’m assuming people attending and competing in the Paralympic games, if the policy about the games lanes is taken to its logical conclusion. Which is, uh. Yeah. Talk about throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Caroline Pidgeon, quoted in this article, puts it well:

When less than one in four Tube stations is wheelchair accessible it is appalling that the ODA have ruled out such a modest proposal.

So, basically, what organisers here are really saying is that they think disabled people shouldn’t bother attending the Olympics. For some people interested in attending, I’m sure that getting to various events was a concern, and being able to use the games lanes would have made it easier and more possible. Have an interest in sports? Too bad. Your kind are not wanted here. Which is interesting, since the organisers have indicated they are interested in accessibility issues; for example, there’s a discussion about making volunteering accessible, and their website has an accessibility statement. I guess accommodations only go so far, eh?

Methinks either the right hand knoweth not what the left hand is doing or someone has some seriously confused priorities.

  1. I would note that Londoners are already not very stoked with this idea; congestion is a serious problem in the city and many people are concerned that the Olympics will make it functionally impossible for people who actually live and work in London to go about their business. This has been a problem for other Olympic hosts, as has the very high cost of costing compared to limited returns, but that’s a different kettle of fish.

Dear Imprudence: I’ll Keep My Body Hair, Thanks

Body hair has come up on Dear Imprudence before, so I thought this recent Ask Amy column might be relevant to the interests of some readers, in addition to being an example of an advice column that does not actually suck!

A reader wrote in to ask:

Dear Amy: I am a girl in my junior year of high school, and the volleyball coach won’t let me compete until I shave my underarms and legs (our uniforms are sleeveless tops and shorts).

I don’t want to be forced into something that I feel is completely unnecessary. Leg and underarm hair is a completely natural part of becoming a woman.

Is this discrimination? Is there anything I can do (besides shave)? I really want to play volleyball! — Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

Ok, first of all, this high school athlete rocks. I like that she’s standing up for herself, and refused to accept the mandate to shave her body hair or else. She’s comfortable with her body hair, she doesn’t have a problem with her hair in her uniform, and she sees no reason to shave. She’s also specifically identified concerns about discrimination, wondering what she can do to retain bodily autonomy (because being told to shave your body hair is most definitely a violation of autonomy) and still play the sport she loves. Right on, Hair Today!

Amy seems to agree:

Dear Gone: I’m going to assume that your coach does not make the male players at your school adhere to the same shaving practices.

I shared your letter with Lenora Lapidus, director of the Women’s Rights Project for the American Civil Liberties Union, who responded, “This is clearly gender discrimination, based on stereotypes of how girls and women should look.” Lapidus would like to remind your coach that Title IX prohibits discrimination in any institution receiving federal funds.

Title IX is the federal statute that pushed open the door for girls to compete in sports on an equal footing with boys.

Lapidus suggests that you start by talking to the coach. “Try to work it out at school. It seems like something they should come around about because this is fairly clear-cut.”

If your coach continues to insist on this shaving rule, take your concern to the principal.

Bam. That opening line is choice, in addition to cutting to the critical point here, which is that, yeah, I’m willing to bet that if the coach also handles the men’s teams, shaving probably isn’t required (unless the coach supervises the swim team, where shaving for all genders is usually recommended for competition). If you’re going to enforce unequal ‘appearance rules,’ which is basically what asking an athlete to shave is unless there’s a compelling reason to do so (leg and armpit hair, to my knowledge, do not impair volleyball performance…any volleyball players want to speak up here?), well, you’d better get ready for someone to point out that the policy is discriminatory.

If talking to the coach won’t work, which seems probable from reading between the lines, I’d say Hair Today might want to consider going to a mentor on the teaching staff, if possible, before escalating to the principal. Sometimes a friendly word from another teacher can accomplish the needed goal without getting administration involved and causing tensions in the future. But, yes, if that doesn’t work, the principal should absolutely back her.

If the principal doesn’t help? Well, I imagine there are a whole lot of hairy feminists and feminist athletes who would be more than happy to lend their assistance to allowing No Hair to compete in sports with the level of body hair she’s comfortable with.

Today in Journalism: You Mean They Can Ride Horses Too?

This delicious little story in the Carluke Gazette by Craig Goldthorpe is pretty much your run of the mill profile of a local person with disabilities by a journalist who has no idea what he’s talking about, but, gosh, thinks it’s actually neat! Milena Canning is an equestrian who enjoys riding Clydesdale horses, which isn’t exactly a news item, except for the fact that she’s blind. The story is cringe-inducing, but the real standout in the piece, to me, is the level of astonishment at the idea that a blind person could ride horses. Alas, I can’t pick up a copy in person to read the promised expanded version.

I’ll be sure to tell blind Paralympic athlete Ann Cecile Orr of Norway, who took two silver medals in Sydney in 2000, that she has talents that ‘can’t be believed.’ Likewise, I’m sure the International Blind Sports Federation, which recognises dressage in particular as a sport practiced by blind and visually impaired athletes worldwide, will be interested to know that blind people can’t ride horses. The folks over at Blind Equestrians will be surprised to learn they can’t ride or handle horses and the rapidly expanding Para-Equestrian community should probably be alerted as well, as should therapeutic riding schools that work with blind and visually impaired students, like the Marianna Greene Henry Special Equestrians Program (yes, I know, the name leaves something to be desired) at the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind.

If there’s one thing I hate, it’s stories in the news about how amazing a disabled athlete is, simply because of the disability. While I think it’s good to profile disabled athletes, for a number of reasons including the fact that it’s important to alert people to the fact that, yes, people with disabilities do engage in sport, articles like this don’t do much to educate people. Goldthorpe could have written about blind equestrian sports and discussed the various adaptations blind riders use to engage in high level competition (people, it does not get much higher than Olympic-level sports, which is what the Paralympics are) instead of engaging in a ‘wow, look at the blind person!’ story. He could have pointed out that the story takes place within the larger context of a long history of disabled athletics.

Like other blind athletes, blind equestrians may work with guides and spotters. Callers are stationed around the ring for sports like dressage (where riders are also expected to memorise their own programmes) and I’d note that nondisabled equestrians also rely on callers and spotters during their own training; many people who have had an opportunity to be around horses probably remember riding while someone else controls the horse with a lunge line, to learn balance, focus on your seat, and get better connected with your horse. Blind and sighted riders have more commonalities than disparities, not just a love for horses and equestrian sport, but shared learning experiences.

I have an interest in equestrian sport and a love for equestrians because I used to ride, although I never reached a very high degree of proficiency. Thus, I tend to look out for stories about horses and riding, and I always watch equestrian events when I can. I love the connection that develops between horse and rider, where a working team can reach a very high level of communication and focus, and many equestrian sports are also just beautiful. Dressage, for example:

Dinks' Dressage: A dark horse faces the camera, head down and neck arched. The rider has a relaxed, comfortable seat with  hands low on the reins and the horse's ears are flicked back, almost as though listening to the rider

(Photo by Flickr user Axel Bührmann, Creative Commons License)

Dressage Abram Hall July 09: A shot of a horse in action, hooves in motion and neck out, with a rider posed comfortably and confidently in the saddle.

(Photo by Flickr user J.harwood, Creative Commons License.)

Articles like this, with their patronising attitudes about blind athletes, don’t do much to break down social attitudes. They tell readers that the subject of the article is astonishing and send the message that we should gawk at disabled athletes because they are disabled, not because of their athletic abilities. They also don’t leave people with more information; say, for example, information for blind folks about how and where to take riding classes, if they are interested, or information for people interested in watching athletic events. (Of course, given the writer’s level of surprise that a blind person could write horses, I’m guessing he probably doesn’t know there are entire events organised just for disabled riders in general, in addition to events for blind riders in particular.)

There are, of course, dangers to equestrian sport, but those dangers are present for all riders at all levels of ability, and the commonsense steps to address them are the same. Horses used in therapeutic riding programs are trained and handled especially carefully to address concerns about new riders who may not have the experience or the strength to control frightened and nervous horses, and riders, disabled and nondisabled alike, learn about safety as soon as they start handling horses. Riding is dangerous. Skiing is dangerous. Boating is dangerous. People participate in all these sports at all levels of ability because they want to, and find them interesting, and journalism that suggests that sports are just not accessible, or highly unusual, for people with disabilities frustrates me.

It’s not ‘remarkable’ that blind people ride horses and participate in competition, any more so than that anyone rides horses. What’s remarkable is that journalists still can’t be bothered to do any research when it comes to talking about disabled athletes, and still repeat the same old chestnuts in most articles profiling disabled athletes.

Recommended Reading for 20 August, 2010

Gentle reader, be cautioned: comments sections on mainstream media sites tend to not be safe and we here at FWD/Forward don’t necessarily endorse all the opinions in these pieces. Let’s jump right in, shall we?

Wheelchair Dancer writes about Body Matters:

It’s about how we imagine living in other people’s bodies and the value we ascribe to them; it’s also about how we pass on the fear and vulnerability of change, injury, or pain in our own physicality. And that’s just on a personal level; things get more complicated when we think of the body as a political space.

From the Human Rights Watch, Malaysia: Disability Rights Treaty Ratification an ‘Important Step’. The treaty went into effect on 18 August.

“Malaysia has taken an important step to protect the rights of people with disabilities,” said Shantha Rau Barriga, disability rights researcher and advocate at Human Rights Watch. “But the convention should be seen as a springboard for changing Malaysian laws, policies, and practices that violate the rights of people with disabilities.”


Malaysia entered formal reservations to the Disability Rights Convention concerning the prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment (article 15) and the right to liberty of movement and nationality (article 18). It also made a declaration limiting the government’s legal application of the principles of non-discrimination and equality.

It’s Australia’s federal election tomorrow, so I’m devoting the rest of this to Australian issues.

From The Age: Anger as disabled pupils spend up to four hours a day on bus in the southern state of Victoria:

Parents say their children have suffered dehydration, toileting problems and emotional distress on the free bus service that runs children to and from specialist schools.

And, to end on a happy note, disabled Australian swimmers are doing beautifully in the ICP World Swimming Championships in the Netherlands. (Swimming is very very popular here in Australia, as I’m sure you can imagine. You can read some of the results in Swimmer Cowdrey wins third gold medal at the Sydney Morning Herald. We also did really well at the 8th World Deaf Golf Championships in Scotland!

Send your links to recreading[@]disabledfeminists[.]com.

Recommended Reading for 13 August, 2010

You know, if you’re into the Gregorian calendar (also, Friday 13th! Spooky!). Why hello there, gentle reader! This is my first Recommended Reading. This is very exciting for us all. While this should be a time of celebration, be cautioned: comments sections on mainstream media sites (and it’s all MSM articles in this edition of RR!) tend to not be safe and we here at FWD/Forward don’t necessarily endorse all the opinions in these pieces. Let’s jump right in, shall we?

A group of people lying in a circle on the grass, hands stretching towards and touching in the middle. There are three wheelchairs scattered about nearby, and some rope on the ground. Rocks are just visible to the bottom of the shot. The photo was taken from the top of a flying fox.

Photo by Louise Dawson. From the photo’s Flickr page: ‘Participants in this Outward Bound group, with a variety of physical disabilities, had just tackled a ropes challenge course as part of a 9 day program.’ The photo was taken in November 1996.

IRIN Africa (from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs): SENEGAL: Children with disability – when stigma means abandonment. Warning for some highly unpleasant treatment of disabled children.

The shame attached to mental and neurological disorders is a strong force, said Dakar hairdresser Ibrahim Gueye, the father of a child with a severe learning disability.

“In Senegalese society it is quite difficult to have a child with a mental disorder. The prevailing belief is that it is a curse; it is difficult to get family and friends to accept such a child.”

In the District of Columbia in the USA, from the Washington Post: Independent administrator to oversee D.C. compliance in disability lawsuit:

The fight over appointing an administrator is the latest chapter in the Evans lawsuit, which was filed in 1976 over the District’s abysmal care of people with developmental disabilities.

That’s right, the case has been going for thirty-four years.

From the Ghana News Agency, 50% of Brazilian buses for persons with disabilities:

Vice President John Dramani Mahama on Wednesday announced that 50 per cent of buses expected from Brazil would be friendly to persons with disabilities.


He said the constitution of the National Council on persons with disabilities was the beginning of the educational programmes that would help to redress their challenges as public institutions noting that the transport system still lacked facilities for them.

In the UK, from the Guardian, Why the next Paralympics will be the greatest ever by Ade Adepitan, Paralympian and TV presenter.

The news that Channel 4 is going to spend millions on the London 2012 Paralympics and give it 150 hours of coverage is a landmark moment. The BBC did a fantastic job of increasing the Paralympics’ profile, but it usually ended up on BBC2 – second fiddle to the Olympics. I only found out about the Paralympics when I was 14 – before then I didn’t know it was possible for someone in a wheelchair to compete in a global sports event.

In the Canadian town of Cobourg, at Northumberland News, Electronic voting a win for disability groups:

The system ensures security by sending each registered voter a pin number by mail; that number can then be used to access the electronic ballot either online or on the telephone.

If you’re on Delicious, feel free to tag entries ‘disfem’ or ‘disfeminists,’ or ‘for:feminists’ to bring them to our attention! Link recommendations can also be emailed to recreading[@]disabledfeminists[.]com.

Recommended Reading for 06 August 2010

Warning: Offsite links are not safe spaces. Articles and comments in the links may contain ableist, sexist, and other -ist language and ideas of varying intensity. Opinions expressed in the articles may not reflect the opinions held by the compiler of the post and links are provided as topics of interest and exploration only. I attempt to provide extra warnings for material like extreme violence/rape; however, your triggers/issues may vary, so please read with care.

Belfast Telegraph: Junior sports boys and girls tap into the Olympic spirit

Kevin Murray, PE and Sport Development Officer at Queen’s Sport said: “Through Queen’s involvement in this project we hope to challenge commonly held negative attitudes about people with disabilities and to inspire and encourage more disabled and non-disabled children to become more active in sport.

The Daily Femme: Sexual Assault and PTSD in the Military

But while the access and compensation for PTSD treatment has been expanded for those men (and women) who have spent time in combat zones, receiving similar compensation for women suffering from MST-induced PTSD is much harder. For instance, the DoD only retains records of significant harassment cases for up to two years, so by the time women come home and seek PTSD treatment, those records could have been discarded.

BBC Radio 4 Programmes: Court of Protection Cost Me £50,000 [Radio programme] (Thanks to Matthew Smith for the link!)

A special court system is supposed to protect the interests of the vulnerable and the elderly. It’s appointed thousands of ‘deputies’ – or guardians – to ensure their money is properly managed. The system was reformed three years ago – but have the changes worked?

There have been allegations the system is slow, bureaucratic and open to abuse. In some cases lawyers are appointed to oversee people’s financial arrangements – and families claim they charge excessive fees. In other cases, it’s a relative who’s appointed as a deputy – but are there adequate safeguards to ensure they’re not misappropriating the money? Fran Abrams investigates cases where the system has left some vulnerable people worse off.

(Transcript is in PDF form. Apologies for that.)

Interview here.

Disability Scoop: Chemical Castration Drug Peddled As Autism Treatment

Parents who believe that excess mercury is to blame for their child’s autism are turning to yet another unproven treatment: a cancer drug that causes the body to quit making testosterone and can lead to impotence.

Disability Direct News and Events Blog: England Blind Squad Unveiled

Dennis Hodgkins, regional development manager for the English Federation of Disability Sport, said: “The chance to support an international series between England and India’s blind cricketers is for us significant, it demonstrates the commitment made by the governing body of the sport, plus other partners.

If you’re on Delicious, feel free to tag entries ‘disfem’ or ‘disfeminists,’ or ‘for:feminists’ to bring them to our attention! Link recommendations can also be emailed to recreading[@]disabledfeminists[.]com

Recommended Reading for 05 August 2010

Warning: Offsite links are not safe spaces. Articles and comments in the links may contain ableist, sexist, and other -ist language and ideas of varying intensity. Opinions expressed in the articles may not reflect the opinions held by the compiler of the post and links are provided as topics of interest and exploration only. I attempt to provide extra warnings for material like extreme violence/rape; however, your triggers/issues may vary, so please read with care.

Raising My Boychick: Vocally crazy: on privilege and the risks and benefits of being out

Openness, vocalness, outness are good for an invisible, marginalized group: we’re here, we’re [crazy], get used to it! It helps to replace highly distorted stereotypes with real faces, real lives, real persons. As more and more people in a group are out, more and more people not in that group know someone who is — and suddenly, they start caring. No longer is it just “those people” who have to worry about discrimination and hatred and violence and the loss of rights and dignity; it is someone you know, someone you might care about, someone you’re willing to stand up for. These are all very good, very important things.

But openness, vocalness, outness can be dangerous, even lethal, for an individual who is marginalized: when someone comes out as mad (or queer, or trans, or a rape or incest survivor, or any other oft-invisible oppressed way of being), they might risk losing their job, losing their children, losing their life. Outness cannot be dictated, imposed, or required. It must not be. It can only be chosen, based on an individual assessment of risk and worth, and the outcome of such calculations will change with each individual, and often with each situation.

Longwindania: PSA

One of my friends is working on a sexual education book for people with disabilities and their partners. Shanna’s very knowledgeable and passionate about responsible queer-positive, disability-friendly, kink-friendly sex education.

Disability on Dreamwidth: New licenses premises access law in Scotland

The Barred! amendment, passed by the Scottish Parliament as part of the Criminal Justice and Licensing Act, requires landlords to show how their premises can be accessed by disabled customers, when they apply for a license. The amendment is an important milestone in Capability Scotland’s Barred! campaign which aims to promote better access to pubs and clubs for disabled people.

Valley News: Temporary Custody

The unknown male subject found in the home? He was actually the 34-year-old African-American who owns the home and has lived there for four years.

And the part about taking him into temporary custody?

Hartford police neglected to say that in the process he was: blasted with pepper spray; struck with a nightstick; handcuffed, wrapped in a blanket and hauled — naked — out of his home, according to a neighbor and what the man says police later told him. When the neighbor tried to tell cops that the handcuffed man on the pavement was the homeowner — not a burglar — he said he was threatened with arrest for interfering in police business.

Moving Hands: Ashley Fiolek: a deaf motocross racer (Thanks to maxporter for the link!)

Today, I watched the final womens motocross race. I was about to fast-forward through it – I dislike motocross and I dislike racing, so it’s not a great combo. But then I noticed that someone was signing, so I hit “play.”

Turns out that the woman who was signing is named Ashley Fiolek. She is a deaf 19-year old who has won gold in the past. The segment that I’d seen was one of those special segments where they take a prominent athlete – usually somebody who is looking to repeat a previous victory – and interview her or him. In this case, they asked Ashley how she got involved in motocross and so forth. She communicates in ASL and uses an interpreter. (According to her bio on Wikipedia, she actually went to a deaf school as a child.)

If you’re on Delicious, feel free to tag entries ‘disfem’ or ‘disfeminists,’ or ‘for:feminists’ to bring them to our attention! Link recommendations can also be emailed to recreading[@]disabledfeminists[.]com

Quick Hit: 2010 Paralympic Games

The 2010 Paralympic Games are underway in Vancouver!

Liudmila Vauchok of Belarus reacts after crossing the finish to win the gold during the women's 10km cross-country at the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games in Whistler, British Columbia, March 14, 2010.

This Reuters image shows Liudmila Vauchok of Belarus crossing the finish line to win the women’s 10 kilometre cross country. I love that grin.

Canada's Collette Bourgonje celebrates after she won silver during the women's 10km cross-country at the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games in Whistler, British Columbia, March 14, 2010. This was Canada's first medal of the games.

Another Reuters photo, of Canadian athlete Collette Bourgonje, the silver medalist in the women’s 10 kilometre cross country.

Are there any athletes and/or events you’re following? I’m personally very into wheelchair curling, and I believe Lauredhel recently dropped a link to a wheelchair curling blog, for those who’d like more information.

Related reading1 for those who’d like to delve into some of the social justice issues associated with the Olympic and Paralympic Games:

Toban Black at Racialicious: An Indigenous Olympics?

David Crary at The Irrawaddy: Vancouver’s Asians Feel Neglected by Olympic Hosts (via Racialicious)

Roxane Hudon at the Montreal Mirror: Games, Games, Go Away

Christopher A. Shaw and Alissa Westergard-Thorpe at Briarpatch Magazine: Class-War Games: The financial and social cost of “securing” the 2010 Olympics

Derrick O’Keefe at the Socialist Voice: Activists Debate Vancouver Olympic Protests

Paul Farhi at the Washington Post: Where the Rich and Elite Meet to Compete (while this is an old article, it touches upon some of the class issues involved in the Winter Olympic Games)

Vancouver Poverty Olympics

Sakura Saunders at the Vancouver Media Co-Op: Greenest Games Ever? (via Racialicious)

On the Paralympics specifically:

Peter McKnight at the Vancouver Sun: Should there be one Games for all?

Ali A. Rizvi at the Huffington Post: Vancouver 2010: It’s Not Over Yet! (You will want to grab a bingo card for this one.)

Douglas Todd at the Vancouver Sun: Accommodations for disabled have taken root

  1. Note: these articles focus mainly on the Olympics rather than the Paralympics, but the issues they address pertain to both Games.

Anything is possible, except an end to these sorts of stories

This wonderful headline came into my email yesterday.

Calgarian In Line For Berth At Vancouver Games; Triumph shows anything possible

This is a disability-centric blog, so yes, you can assume it’s about disability, and not class, or age, or immigration status, or ethnicity, or race. Those sorts of “overcoming adversity” stories get written all the time, as well, and are equally offensive, for many of the same reasons I’m about to lay out here.

I hate these stories.

I hate them because of who they’re written for. They’re not written so that blind children in Canada can be all “Hey! We’ve got a great athlete going into the Olympics, and he’s blind, just like me! Maybe I can be a world-class athlete, too!” (Because the Paralympians, who are also world-class athletes, don’t get much attention. 1) They’re not written so that blind adults can feel a bit of smug pride about having one of their own in the Olympic games to cheer for.

No no no, that would be silly. Everyone knows blind people don’t read the newspapers, and blind kids don’t learn about the Olympics! They’re all too busy leading sad lonely lives of darkness and misery! The only people who read newspapers are Nice Non-Disabled Folks who just need a feel good story about adversity.

Basically, framing this story as “overcoming adversity” rather than “Awesome Olympic Athlete (who is also blind!)” feeds into the SuperCrip story. When the only stories that your average non-disabled person reads about “the disabled” is this narrative, well– Annaham talked a bit about this in her post about SuperCrips over at Bitch:

Supercrip’s main function is to serve as inspiring to the majority while reinforcing the things that make this majority feel awesome about itself. In short: Supercrip provides a way for non-disabled folks to be “inspired” by persons with disabilities without actually questioning—or making changes to—how persons with disabilities are treated in society.

It also, of course, reinforces the stereotype that people with disabilities just need to try harder because anything is possible! Which we will now tell you by comparing all disabled people to an Olympic-caliber athlete!

Hey, able-bodied folks. Why the heck are you not overcoming adversity and becoming an Olympic-caliber athlete? It’s so easy, right? If you just “realize most of your limitations in life are self-imposed”, you, too can do anything!

  1. From reading the article, it seems like that’s the actual stereotype that Brian McKeever was hoping to overcome – that Paralympians aren’t real athletes. Sadly, that is not the actual focus of the report. It’s primarily about how amazing! it is that he might qualify for the Real Olympics. It even ends with this: “To me, it’s no surprise that he’s going to get a spot on the Olympic team,” Goldsack said. “You forget after a while that he has vision problems. He’s just one of the guys.” Well, yes, of course he’s one of the guys – he’s not one of the elephants, after all. Sheesh.